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>> welcome to the 2011 spj town hall. i'm here with my co-host to welcome you to what promises to be a fascinating discussion about the changes taking place in journalism today. tonight's program is presented by the society of professional journalists in collaboration with the san francisco public library and san francisco bay area journalists. after several years of difficulty, we are seeing a lot of activity, particularly involving new media organizations. we have seen patch.com open hundreds of bureaus across the country. yahoo! is expanding its staff across the country.
aol bought the huffington opposed. in the middle east, we saw how citizen journalists are reporting on the uprisings, and in papers like the "san francisco chronicle" are finding ways to collaborate with groups like spj's journalist of the year in northern california. his last three of this year's winners were new or nonprofit media, a ratio that would have been unthinkable just a decade ago when newspapers and large tv stations dominated the news media. to be sure, most of the hard work is still ahead of us. few new start-ups turn a profit. many community newsrooms' still rely on volunteer labor, and broader economic issues. we want to encourage the members
of our audience here at the public library to drive this discussion. this is your chance to ask these experts what is happening to the news that you depend on to make your day to day decisions. our conversation tonight will include five elements -- we will talk about the quality of reporting available to the public and move on to what is being done to create sustainable newsroom jobs. we will talk about creating a new system that enjoys constitutional freedom of the press, celebrates the diversity of our communities, and enjoys the economic independence needed to support ethical journalism. i would like to introduce my coast -- co-host of the evening, and she will be introducing our panelists. >> thank you, rose. it is a privilege to stand up here. we are not used to looking this good. we can go to radio in pajamas. i would like to introduce our panelists for today.
we will start back from the left. executive producer of the "daily mandarin and cantonese newshour." next to him is the director of multimedia and technology programs at the night digital media center at uc-berkeley. next is the managing is theidd -- managing director at idd ventures sf. nexus' the editor in chief of marketwatch.com, part of news corp. -- next is the editor in chief. the co-founder and senior community manager of oakland local, a nonprofit media that promotes public discourse on issues. in the front row is a media analyst, who publishes an was a
key developer of the mercury center. next to him is an assistant professor of broadcast and electronic media at san francisco state university. next is the managing editor for local news at -- i'm sorry. he is not at yahoo!, right. he is editor-in-chief of patch.com, a division of aol that provides news to specific communities. very local. after him, we have the managing director for local news at yahoo.com, guiding the company's local coverage nationwide. last but not least is the senator who represents san francisco and san mateo counties, and he is the recipient of spj's freedom of
information award in 2010. that is our panel. back to you, rose. >> before we start, i want to get a sense of who we have in the audience. how many of you currently work in the media? lots. how many of you used to work in the media? how many of you want to work in the media? ok, good. that will give us a sense of who we are talking with. great. every friday, we have a media roundtable and invite international, alternative, and mainstream journalists to talk about coverage of the week's news. we believe it is important to highlight good journalism because so much of it gets passed over. we think it is also important to start off on a positive no. with that, i want to start off on a positive note tonight. i worked with very.
we were on staff before the web was even a mainstream word. i just want to ask you, since you were there in the beginning, and you have rode the wave, what is really exciting new as we face all these challenges? >> the good news is we see an emerging business model for media, and the bad news is it involves giving 30% of your revenue to apple. but i think there is a lot of potential, actually, for building a business on top of distribution through mobile. the other thing we have got going on is really profoundly exciting and far more exciting than five years ago, that the tools are so much better than they were five years ago. they are profoundly better. compared to the dark days of 2005, media are now -- everybody
is online. facebook can launch a product, and really, overnight, build community on thousands of websites. there really are some exciting things going on. in the last five years, things have changed a lot. >> does that count -- does that excitement also extend to content? >> i do not think we are there yet. i do not think we have seen any digital native content that has produced really ground-breaking journalism. a couple of years ago, we were pretty excited about what was happening at a place like talking points memo, where they were doing some great stuff. we have seen a lot of efforts, but things like rupert murdoch's daily have not excited us on a journalistic level. but i think we are laying groundwork for some institutions that they possibly do that in the next three to five years. >> i'm wondering what you think it would take for it to go to
that next level and provide quality journalism. >> i just want to offer a slight difference of opinion. i think that we are seeing a couple of things happen right now. they are positive things that are happening. while it may be true that the first wave of online-only journalism tended to be national and international criticism and opinion, which got the name of blogs, what we are actually seeing of the local level is something even more exciting than that. as newspapers have become challenged, and we have seen, sadly, the destruction of capabilities of newspaper and local television stations and other media in the local arena, we are seeing a new layer journalism being created at the local level. some startups such as the "bases
and close " in san francisco, "texas tribune" out in texas -- there have been others that attended some similar things -- are starting to use a digital- only medium to provide a layer of local coverage. after that, the other positive things that i see our outfits like -- are outfits like patch and yahoo!, which is looking to create semi-pro or citizen journalism to take place, a new layer, stuff that was not covered at all before. observational community-oriented journalism. things that might have been restricted to an e-mail newsletter or in the distant past, some kind of mimeograph letter. those are positive changes to journalism, and they are happening at the local level. >> speaking of local, how many here have heard up hatch --
heard of patch.com? interesting. i love my local pact, not because they are here, but i follow it. it tells me what is going on in the schools, and it tells me what is going on down the street. but not many people know about it. i'm wondering why you think that is, or are you targeting certain communities that are covered by patch? >> and can you describe it for those of us that are not familiar with it? >> it is a hub for news and information for local communities, simply put. it goes beyond this, and we can get into that, but that is something it leads with. we hire full-time professional journalist who lives and works locally in that community that it is serving. so it is a uniform platform so the technology is shared, so we can flip the switch, but the
editor is really the key to making that all work. for us, for each of those, although it is part of a bigger brand and effort, what matters is how many people within that community know about it, so i'm gratified that you know about yours. the question would be how many more people know about it, and the ones who did not, how do we let them know? >> well, i am also a news person, so that helps. >> and it kind of markets itself to some degree in that the longer the editor is there covering the news, the more people they are talking to, the more people are interested in seeing photographs of the high- school football game and will look for it and that sort of thing. last year, we grew from 30 sites regionally on the east coast to 775 nationally. we were the largest hirer of journalists in the country, something we are very proud of. we're definitely making an effort at serving those communities, but doing it at scale, and that has been the big
challenge. >> can you elaborate on that? what does that mean exactly? >> we would not exist if there was not a feeling that a lot of these communities do not have the experience online of finding the information that is most relevant to them. there are a lot of great weekly newspapers. there are a lot of bulletin boards, facebook woods, you name it. there is a lot of media focused at local, but not every community has it, and even the ones that do often are not getting the kind of service that i think they used to historical because of downsizing and regional newspapers not serving those communities the way they used to. so you will have the council meeting not really being covered. we have had numerous examples where board meetings, council meetings, things that those members got used to not being covered. suddenly, they were seeing the week after week and seeing that
we were there to stay. >> in the audience, do you feel like you're communities are being covered well? do you know what is going on in your back yard? do you feel like your stories being told? majority no? ok. let's go to pat with idg because you argue that there is a lot of local news in san francisco, based on the data you have done, and a lot of people feel like they do not know what is going on. can you talk about that? >> we pulled together some numbers about what is going on, and i stopped counting after 100 local dot-com's. 14 city-wide newspapers, 13 ethnic, 16 different neighborhood papers. the high schools, the special interest things, universities, tv stations, radio stations.
together, those add up to 100 units of local coverage, and that is not counting all the new stock that venture capitalists like we fund in the jungle all the time. this is at some level deflowering of local journalism that happen because it is cheap to be in business now. you do not have to have a big printing press and truckers and unions and all those things. you can be right in the business in a way that was impossible in the last 25 years. i think there is a flowering going on of local journalism and lots of capital chasing that opportunity right now. >> would you agree with that? when you look at local news, do you think it is being covered well by the sources that were just cited? >> i think in the san francisco area that is true. that is probably not true in all areas, but we are seeing with the development of patch and many other high for local news sites that there is a rebirth of coverage of local news -- and
many other hyperlocal news sites. >> i was a foreign correspondent for a number of years. many freelances like myself have kind of jumped out of the business as it has steadily declined. my question is, on the sustainability side, as well in america over the last decades -- and it is an old story, and we have been hearing it for many years. people like paul krugman have been trying to get us to realize how well has been so concentrated in such a small group of folks. what strategies could be used to attack this minority of individuals in a way that
foundations and charities did in the past? if we had a few people, and quite a number of them at an immense amount of wealth, why are we not having them at the new macarthur foundation's and the people who will finance this community journalism? there should be a way of strategy and a mindset where they can help reduce the public interest journalism of the future -- help produce the public interest journalism of the future. >> you are seeing that from some of the wealthy. you have bill gates doing fantastic things. msn and msnbc sprang from microsoft. rupert murdoch, for all the criticism he gets, is invested in the media and innovation. mike bloomberg is doing a ton of stuff through his company. they are hiring hundreds of
people. i worked at bloomberg 15 years ago, and i was in europe as a foreign correspondent. there were 40 journalists, and now, there are thousands. i think it depends on the interests of certain people, but they are being tapped, and you can get them to lend to foundations and do this type of stuff. it is just creating the bridge from the journalism world into that world, and it is not as hard as you would think, in my experience. >> i would just say that a few of those individuals you had mentioned are not examples of the types of progress of journalism that i think a lot of people are here to talk about and listened of route -- was it about. these guys are kind of villains in a sense of where we want journalism to go. fox news and the daily, who knows where that is going to go, but they are not necessarily public-interested, public radio,
public tv, public press minded people. >> that is an opinion that has probably been ill-served in my opinion, having worked in two of those companies and seen the dedication that they give to journalism. everyone has their opinion of fox news, right? rupert also owns "the australian." he owns the "wall street journal." bloomberg sprung from nowhere to create progress of journalism online. i will respectfully disagree on that. >> thinking about california watch, we feature them regularly, and they are doing excellent investigative work. is anyone familiar with those, and can you talk about the success and where you see that going? do you think that we will see more of these kinds of outlets?
>> i think that paying for news journalism and especially for news journalism with a variety of political agendas, historically in san francisco, was paid for by real estate and automotive and help-wanted advertising. it was not paid for by the circulation nichols of the subscribers. if you think about government- boned journalism compared to the rich, benevolent owner boulders of journalism or the public opening of journalism, i think there is a time now where you do not need quite as much funding as ever, but some of the people who today are seen as barron's -- barons started off with a pretty defined journalistic crusade in their mind, and most of the time in their own minds, it was progressive.
i think that the dollars are more available than ever for people with an agenda, but the ability to spot the quality voices is a little bit harder now that they are so numerous. >> there will always be a market for investigative journalism. i do not know that it is the type of financial journalism that was referred to before, but i think that there will always be people willing to also spend the time to listen to that type of reporting or even to read it online. there is no doubt that investigative journalism will continue to flourish. simply as a longer format journalism. yes, i think that that makes a
lot of sense in terms of what the audience wants, and it is probably what is also defined as for aggressive journalism. i think we should probably define our terms. what does that really mean? how is bloomberg doing progress of journalism? we may be thinking about different definitions of what that is. i'm not sure if the segue from that into investigative journalism made a lot of sense to most people's thinking in terms of how that is defined. >> have another question? >> i am a local free-lance journalist here. a couple of years ago, i had a friend. we were trying to figure out the feasibility of starting a nonprofit journalism in denver, and i remember coming across this corporate structure that i believe vermont, maybe one other state, uses in the country, but it is called a low profit limited liability company, and
it is a structure that is meant to allow for profit but also to allow for tax-exempt status for donations. i found it really interesting. i found it surprising that other states did not have a similar model. this could also be a model to help budding companies in the future by allowing them more flexibility in how they acquire financing. i'm curious how many of you on the panel are familiar with this type of model and also, i guess this would be directed towards beye -- senator yee, how difficult it would be to bring this model to california. thank you. >> relative to establishing a new financial instrument or a new financial business, it is
possible -- i think the question is what is the need for, what is the support for it, and who might be able to carry a bill to allow the to have been. i think one of the selling points is if in fact this new financial structure can be an impetus for new businesses that would generate jobs. i think you are going to hear a welcome applause for something along those lines. not something that i have heard of, but clearly, something that one can look at, and my office will look into that. >> has anybody heard of that kind of model? no? >> [inaudible] >> our panelists that we have not spoken with yet. why don't you talk about marginalized communities? the one complaint i hear from people about the corporate media is that they go to the same
sources over and over again. libya is a great example. has anybody heard from a libyan in the last month? right? an iraqi? an afghan? they go to the same people here wiretapping, torture, twitter not being taxed in san francisco. you are an expert on everything. why don't you talk about what you do to bring in those voices? >> thank you. we talk about how we work with different communities, but i wanted to talk a little bit about the state of online media and really get specific when we are talking about communities because that is not one monolithic market. in san francisco, oakland where we do business, and all the different pockets of the bay area, there are tons of different communities that we all serve, and we have to understand the nuances and difficulties of each particular community because we cannot continue to talk about them as if they are all the same. online community market in oakland is pretty robust.
they all struggle with audience, and these are folks that actually served the people that have not been traditionally served by corporate media, and we still have to deal with how we work with these communities, how we let them know that we have their backs and they are the ones we are focusing on because they are so used to being left out of the general marketplace. from a business perspective, how do we target those folks and let them know that they are the community we are focusing on? and also, how do you turn that into a profitable business model, not because we want to be rich, but because we have to pay the bills and make sure we can go to work the next day? that is the question we deal with on a regular basis. we are doing that partially through partnerships with some of the people on the panel, but also through social media training, through diversity
training, through actual media and informal conversation. we do a lot of meat ups. we have opened offices pretty much 24/7. we really need to lower the barriers of entry between community media, between media professional, and media in disease, and media consumer. by doing that over the last year-and-a-half, we have started to see a lot more community by and, in the community coming to us from south -- for stories, but you have to recognize that they are a diverse community, that they are someone who might have been left out of the usual media stream, and let them know that you understand that, and they will slowly open up to you. >> he is the co-founder of the oakland local. >> i'm going to play devil's advocate a little bit here. you cover your local community. do you feel at all, as a non-
profit, a bit -- dare i say -- not threatened, but some kind of competition has come in from the big boys? you were having a nice conversation earlier. i listen in. do you see yahoo! going local, for example, as a plus, or do you see them as competition? how did you see that? >> first, full disclosure, yahoo! is a content partner for oakland local. they distribute our content on their website. there is some back and forth. some people are wondering what the corporate industries are going to do in a hyperlocal space. i do think there is space for everyone to work together. one of the questions i'm interested in hearing about is whether the corporate entities
are interested in working with local entities. we have been working with oakland for the last year-and-a- half, and i have a background in oakland activism, and it has still been difficult for us to get headway as an organization. that kind of community involvement takes a 24/7 kind of commitment. that is slightly different than the commitment it takes to run a yahoo! new site. i'm interested in with the challenges will be, but i'm much more interested in what the opportunities will be. if we keep saying in our own spaces and not asking how we work together, there will be a problem. right now, we have the opportunity to come to the table and ask how we work together. in another two or three years, i did not think we will have that opportunity. >> how do you deal with those challenges in the mandarin and cantonese communities? then i can anthony just respond to that? he wanted to respond to that. >> more like build on